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Terrorism

Suicide Bombing or Holy Autothysis?

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On November 9, 2005 a Belgian woman in her late 30’s – Liliane Degauque –entered history as the first European woman to blow herself up in Iraq. Countless more from Europe, Asia or Africa have and will follow in Iraq and elsewhere, including in the heart of the Old continent.

If Liliane Degauque launched an attack against a military target, many followers are simply pulling the trigger amongst random civilians. Regardless of their age, gender or social class, some people decide to meet their creator taking along as many lives as possible. Are they criminals suffering from personality disorders as some suggest, or are they devout believers offering the ultimate sacrifice for their faith?

Self-sacrificing zealots: an enduring phenomenon across the ages

Most civilisations and religions have resorted to animal – and sometimes human – sacrifice as an expiatory tradition to appease or please God (-s). Many believers consciously inflict pain upon themselves to test their faith, to showcase the strength of their convictions or to reach a higher level of consciousness. For instance, the mortification of the flesh for Christians is at times translated into flagellation, in imitation of Jesus’ crucifixion. In Islam, Shiites remember the killing of imam Huseyn in Karbala during Ashura celebrations. Similarly, they beat themselves with chains and swords to express their guilt for this killing that marks the division between Shia and Sunni obedience.

These practices often track their roots in the Scriptures, such as when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Although Abraham accepted, God sent Gabriel who ordered Abraham not to do so. For Christians, the sacrificial lamb refers to Jesus’ sacrifice, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). Equally, Muslims sacrifice mutton during Eid al-Adha. In essence, Isaac’s sacrifice epitomises the moment when faith and devotion was put to its ultimate test.

Suicide attacks in the animal world

The tactic of suicide is not unknown to the animal world. Ants and termites resort to autothysis (self-sacrifice or altruistic suicide) to repel attackers. In the extremely organised eusocial ant colony, obedient workers, soldiers and male drones are programmed to serve their queen and achieve their tasks without questioning. The Malaysian ant, more specifically, has developed a unique system to defend its colony. Ant warriors have a unique gland on which they can exert internal pressure until it explodes. When an enemy draws near, the ant runs towards him, triggers the internal explosion killing itself and releasing a poison that, in turn, neutralises the assailant.

The defence strategy of some soldier termites is similar. Shall an enemy try to enter the tunnels, termites will blow themselves up.

The main defence objective of those self-organised societies is to preserve their highly regulated society.

Faith-based attacks

What we witness today is far from the termites’ defence mechanism, one that is designed to protect its group. The termites never sought to change others and impose their way of life. On the contrary, human suicide killers launch planned attacks that are carried out after infiltrating a refugee camp or a tourist spot. These suicide attacks do not happen to prevent an enemy from entering, but are carried out against unknown people who simply happen to be at a particular place at a particular moment. To justify such atrocities, the border between attack and defence is blurred. Attacks are presented as acts of defence for survival against the evil or the enemy whose mere existence is a threat that must be annihilated everywhere. For supporters of faith-based suicide attacks, the concept of evil-enemy expands to anyone who is different (aka “all others”).  

Abraham’s sacrifice or the self-inflicted pain by believers is also very different and bears no resemblance to the suicide attacks targeting innocent people. For individual believers, mortification of their own flesh is a voluntary act. By no means, has it been imposed by armed groups commanders or clerics. God has two hands: one to forgive and one to punish. Those calling for suicide bombing only refer to the use of the latter. And polytheisms, considered now as a vestige of by-gone eras, were the first victims of religious radicalism. Today’s religious extremists call upon God’s wrath to turn their violence against all those who veered even slightly from strict observance of their credo. This explains why intra-ISIL punishment is regularly practised.

At the polar opposite, God’s first hand is to forgive, to understand and show compassion. This non-violent hand does not enjoy much popularity in radical rhetoric stemming from very binary views.

An inferno circle: from indoctrination to suicide attacks

To attract new potential radicals, recruiters invite them to believe that they are different and have been elected for a holy mission. Recruiters easily anticipate the negative reaction of the close friends of a person on the path of radicalisation. At an early stage, not to antagonise the young recruit from their circle, recruiters will drive a wedge between the candidates and their inner circle, by claiming the candidate has see the “light”, whilst others remain in the dark and lack the faith to access higher levels of religious consciousness. ISIL has gone one step further with its online recruitment form, asking whether candidates were ready to kill their own “infidel” relatives. Gradually, young recruits accept the fact that their commitment is in the best interest of a cause higher than family ties. The inferno circle starts when candidates for suicide bombing gradually change their perspective and adhere to revisionist interpretations of God’s command. Acts, such as killing themselves and fellow human beings, acquire alternative meaning and are now an acceptable means to achieve ones’ end. Suicide bombers, convinced about the importance, the meaning and the honour of their holy mission, embrace the (ir-) rationality of their act. Human laws and codes that condemn such acts are now part of the very world they must destroy. Therefore, any effort to deter a suicide bomber not to act, merely reinforces his/her conviction about the need to end the unholy world so that a better one will emerge. Suicide bombers see themselves as the frontrunners of the necessary apocalypse to overturn the chaos and the moral corruption dominating today’s world.

In Memoriam

There are today little signs that faith-based suicide attacks are fading away, especially with fighters returning to Europe. Calls for suicide attacks, random stabbing, vehicle-borne attacks or derailing trains are increasing. There is a plethora of individual stories that tells of fast-track induction of recruits who made the turn from sinner to radical convert. What will happen with those kids who have been taught during ISIL-run mathematics classes that one suicide bomber plus one suicide bomber equals two mass casualties?

Regardless of who they are, suicide bombers leave behind thousands of people in pain in what resembles a modern-day Massacre of Innocents. RIP.

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Terrorism

Terrorists potentially target millions in makeshift biological weapons ‘laboratories’

MD Staff

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Rapid advances in gene editing and so-called “DIY biological laboratories”which could be used by extremists, threaten to derail efforts to prevent biological weapons from being used against civilians, the world’s only international forum on the issue has heard.

At meetings taking place at the United Nations in Geneva which ended on Thursday, representatives from more than 100 Member States which have signed up to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) – together with civilian experts and academics – also discussed how they could ensure that science is used to positive ends, in line with the disarmament blueprint set out by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Although the potential impact of a biological weapons attack could be huge, the likelihood is not currently believed to be high. The last attack dates back to 2001, when letters containing toxic anthrax spores, killed five people in the US, just days after Al Qaeda terrorists perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Nonetheless, the rise of extremist groups and the potential risk of research programmes being misused, has focused attention on the work of the BWC.

“There’s interest from terror groups and we’re also seeing the erosion of norms on chemical weapons,” said Daniel Feakes, head of the BWC Implementation Support Unit at the UN in Geneva.

“That could spread to biological weapons as well,” he said, adding that “at the worst, you could be talking of epidemics on the scale of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or even a global pandemic that could result in millions of deaths.”

In a bid to stay on top of the latest biological developments and threats, the BWC’s 181 Member States hold a series of meetings with experts every year, traditionally in the summer. The reports that are discussed during these sessions are then formerly appraised in December.

At the eight-day session just ended, science and technology issues were debated for two days – a measure of their importance.

Among the developments discussed was the groundbreaking gene-editing technique CRISPR. It can be applied – in theory – to any organism. Outside the Geneva body, CRISPR’s use has raised ethical questions, Mr. Feakes said, but among Member States, security ramifications dominated discussions.

“Potentially, it could be used to develop more effective biological weapons,” he said, noting that the meetings addressed the growing trend of “DIY biological labs”. However, the meetings also focused on the promotion of “responsible science” so that “scientists are part of the solution, not the problem”.

In addition to concerns that the Biological Weapons Convention lacks full international backing, the body has also faced criticism that its Members are not obliged to allow external checks on any illegal stockpiles they might have.

The issue highlights the fact that the BWC lacks a strong institution, its handful of administrators dwarfed by larger sister organizations including the OPCW – the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The OPCW’s 500-strong staff – based in the Hague – have weapons inspectors training facilities, Feakes notes, explaining that the BWC’s focus is therefore much more “about what States do at a national level”.

Concern for the future

Looking ahead, and aside from the rapid pace of scientific change, the biggest challenge is keeping the Biological Weapons Convention relevant – which appears to still be the case today.

“There are no States that say they need biological weapons,” Mr. Feakes says. “That norm needs to be maintained and properly managed. You can’t ban CRISPR or gene editing, because they can do so much good, like finding cures for diseases or combating climate change. But we still need to manage these techniques and technologies to ensure they are used responsibly.” Gene editing, in simple terms, involves the copying of exact strands of DNA, similar to cutting and pasting text on a computer.

The latest BWC session in the Swiss city also involved key intergovernmental organizations, scientific and professional associations, academic institutions, think tanks and other non-governmental entities.

Formally known as the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction, the BWC was the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban an entire category of weapons.

It opened for signature in 1972 and entered into force in 1975. It currently has 181 States Parties, and six States that have signed but not yet ratified it.

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Terrorism

Where is Our Sovereignty?

Hareem Aqdas

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In the name of anti-terrorism, the Justice Department of U.S.A has urged its acquisition of all modes of powers since the birth of our country.  Following are some fundamental considerations.

Why, at all, do our civil rights have to be sacrificed in order to protect (so called) us from terrorists by this outside force, called as hegemony? Why even has U.S. taken the responsibility on interfering in Pakistan’s (and the worlds) internal matters as that of security? The argument is whether security is more crucial than our liberty. We are told that the Justice Department requires these powers in order to make us secure.  But the central question goes deeper – will the sacrifice of our liberty actually make us safer, for we accept their dominance and let them interfere in our matters, why?

Can we be made absolutely safe by U.S.’s interference in our security matters? No. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together realizes this. The War on Terrorism, occurring in Pakistan, will not be won, as this war is a political act, done by politicians for political reasons. We had a war on poverty, and lost. We had a war on drugs, and lost. These kinds of wars are not about resolving issues, they are about appearing to resolve issues.

The biggest blind liberty we openly give to The U.S. is the power to name anyone amongst us as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, without any proof or any judicial review of the claim; we trust American leaders to name someone a terrorist or a devotee of terrorism only for the reason of protecting from terrorists. They do this in secret, on the basis of whatever information or sources they characterize, and with no one ever able to review their decision.

Once they have determined that someone is a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism (remember no testimony required), they assert (or want) the right to detain indefinitely, and in clandestine.  That is, should they decide you are a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism; they get to secretly arrest you and hold you as long as they want without anyone knowing why or where.  No court is able to review this situation. Where is our sovereignty at this point?

The above, of course, has to do with the eavesdropping they want to do, or their ability to come into our homes without a warrant and copy our hard drive, and make it possible to copy all the keystrokes we make and harass us for whatever petty grievance they hold.

Now ask yourself, how does their interference in our matters of security make us safe from terrorists?  How does their power to name someone a terrorist or a supporter of terrorists, without judicial review, make us safer? Such a power only makes the judgments, of those who hold this power, safe from any abuse of that power. How the power to search and arrest without warrant make us safer? For it threatens not the terrorists, but our sovereignty.

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Terrorism

Nuclear Terrorism and Pakistan

Sonia Naz

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Nuclear terrorism is a potential threat to the world security. According to the EU representative terrorists can get access to nuclear and radioactive materials and they can use it to terrorize the world. Nuclear security expert Mathew Bunn argues that “An act of nuclear terrorism would likely put an end to the growth and spread of nuclear energy.”After 9/11 the world has observed that al-Qaida wanted to get nuclear weapons. In case terrorists acquire nuclear materials, they would use it for the production of a dirty bomb. A dirty bomb is not like a nuclear bomb. A nuclear bomb spreads radiation over hundreds of square while; nuclear bomb could destroy only over a few square miles. A dirty bomb would not kill more people than an ordinary bomb. It will not create massive destruction, but it will cause the psychological terror which will lead to a panic situation which is more devastating. The world has not experienced of any act of nuclear terrorism, but terrorists expressed their desires to gain nuclear weapons. The IAEA has observed thousands of incidents of lost, left and unauthorized control of nuclear materials and such materials can go into the wrong hands.

After 9/11 terrorism generated negative perceptions about the nuclear security of Pakistan. Often western community pressurizes Pakistan that its nuclear weapons can go into the wrong hands due to the terrorism in it.  The fact is that Pakistan has faced many terrorist attacks, but not any attack towards its nuclear installation facility and radiation has been occurred. Mostly, nations obtain nuclear weapons for the international prestige, but Pakistan is one of those states which obtained nuclear capability to defend itself from India which has supremacy in conventional weapons. It played a leading role in the efforts of nuclear security since inception of its nuclear weapons. The result is that no single incident of theft and sabotage has been recorded in Pakistan.

Pakistan is a very responsible state and it has taken foolproof measures to defend the its nuclear installations and nuclear materials against any terrorist threats. Pakistan is not the member of the nonproliferation(NPT), Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT) because India has not signed them. If Pakistan signs these treaties and India does not, it would raise asymmetry between both rival states of South Asia. Pakistan’s nuclear non-proliferation policy is based on principles as per the NPT norms, although ithas not signed it. Pakistan had also proposed to make South Asia a nuclear free zone in 1970 and 80s, but India did not accept that.

However, Pakistan is a strong supporter of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and security. In this context, it is the signatory of a number of regimes. Pakistan has established the its Nuclear Regulatory authority (PNRA) since22 January, 2001 under the obligations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The PNRA works under the IAEA advisory group on nuclear security and it is constantly improving and re-evaluating nuclear security architecture. Pakistan has ratified the 2005 amendment to the physical protection convention for the physical security of nuclear materials. When Obama announced nuclear security summit in 2009,Pakistan welcomed it. It has not only attended all nuclear security summits, but proved with its multiple nuclear security measures that it is a responsible nuclear state. Pakistan’s nuclear devices are kept unassembled with the Permissive Action Links (PALs) to prevent the unauthorized control and detonation of nuclear weapons. Different US policy makers and Obama have stated that “we have confidence that the Pakistani military is equipped to prevent extremists from getting an access to the nuclear materials.”

The dilemma, however is that some major powers favour India due to their geopolitical interests, despite India’s low score in nuclear security than Pakistan, as is evident from the reports prepared by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).The US has always favoured India for the membership of the NSG ignoring Pakistan request to become a member of the NSG, despite that it has taken more steps than India to ensure nuclear safety and security. It is following United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540(which is about the prevention of proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDS) and it is the first state which has submitted its report to the UN.

The report explains the measures taken by Pakistan to ensure radiological security and control of sensitive materials and WMDs transfer. Although Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism, but its nuclear security measures are strong and appreciable. Recently, IAEA director visited Pakistan and appreciated its efforts in nuclear safety and security. In view of Pakistan’s successful war against terrorism, its success in eliminating terrorism in the country, and strong measures that it has taken to secure its nuclear installations and materials, their should be no doubt left about the safety Pakistan’s nuclear materials.

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